Science Explains Why Tomatoes Should Never Be Stored In The Fridge

First Posted: Oct 19, 2016 05:40 AM EDT

Scientists have already figured out why it's NEVER a good idea to put your tomatoes in the fridge. Experts claim that the reason for this is their genes chill out and are altered by cold temperatures, which can ultimately affect the flavor. The new study unfolds the process, and may someday help solve the problem.

The discovery by academics at the University of Florida explained "maybe we can breed tomatoes to change that," said researcher Denise Tieman of the University of Florida in Gainesville. She and her colleagues there, in China and at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York reported that their findings were published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The research showed that after 7 days of being kept in storage at 39 degrees, tomatoes lost some of their supply of substances that produce their unique aroma, which is a key part of their flavor.

According to Yahoo News, cooling tomatoes below 12˚C stops them from producing some of the substances that contribute to their taste. Researchers who dug into the genetic roots said that the temperature robs the fruit of flavor, whether it's in a home refrigerator or in a cold storage after harvest but before the produce reaches the grocery store shelf.

After three days of sitting at room temperature, it still didn't produce any remedy. However, a taste test participated by 76 people confirmed that the chilled tomatoes didn't taste as good as fresh fruit. Daily Mail also reported Tiemann saying, further research showed that the prolonged chilling reduced the activity of certain genes that make those compounds. In more technical terms, researchers wrote, "chilling-induced tomato flavor loss is associated with altered volatile synthesis and transient changes in DNA methylation."

Methylation is the process where a cluster of atoms known as a methyl group sticks to an organism's DNA and alter its function. CBS News reported that methylation plays a vital role in regulating gene expression, and abnormal patterns of methylation have even been associated with the development of diseases. Tieman's lab is already looking into the possibility of breeding tomatoes that don't lose flavor in the cold, she said.

In the meantime, "Just leave them out on the counter, or leave them in a shaded area, something like that," said Banscher, whose farm is in Gloucester County. "A tomato has a decent shelf life."

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